The Personal Injury Claims Process in Washington
Negotiating with insurance companies can be a daunting task, particularly if you aren’t well-versed in Washington personal injury law. This is why it is vital to have an experienced personal injury attorney when pursuing compensation. The seasoned legal team at Pendergast Law Personal Injury Lawyers has been successfully representing Seattle-area injury victims for over two decades, and will put their skills to work on your claim. For a free case evaluation, call our Renton office at 888-539-9211.
Before you begin filing your claim, you should receive medical attention. Get a record of your injuries and the doctor’s opinion. Taking this step will be essential down the line to determine the amount of damages you are entitled to. Once the nature, severity, and duration of your injuries have been established, then you and your attorney can initiate the settlement process.
Insurance Companies Are Businesses
Insurance companies – your own, as well as that of the party that caused your injury – are businesses, and they operate accordingly. They make a profit by making the lowest payouts possible, regardless of the needs of an injury victim. To accomplish this, they employ skilled lawyers whose sole job is to deny or diminish their client’s liability for your injury. They will try to use the legal system against you to keep from having to make a higher payout. This is why you should never try to negotiate a personal injury claim on your own. In fact, we advise you not to speak to an insurance company until you’ve retained an experienced attorney to represent you.
Meeting With Your Attorney
If you’ve been injured, contact a lawyer who specializes in personal injury claims. This lawyer will determine if another party’s negligence resulted in your injury, and to what degree. Washington is a contributory fault state (meaning that more than one party can share fault for an injury), and any jury award will be adjusted accordingly. For instance, a car runs a red light and T-bones your car, leaving you with a broken arm and broken ribs, but it was dusk and you didn’t have your headlights on. A judge or jury could find that the other driver was 90% at fault for your losses, and you were 10% at fault. If the total sum of your losses amounted to $100,000, you could only be awarded $90,000.
Calculating Economic Losses
Once you’ve chosen the lawyers at Pendergast Law to pursue your personal injury claim, your job is, essentially, done. Your only task moving forward is to heal and put your life back together. We’ll do the rest. We will start by determining what your losses are, and what kind of compensation we’re going to ask for. All monetary losses are referred to as “economic” losses or damages. These may include the following:
- Present and future medical bills
- Lost wages (this includes for a spouse or family member if he/she has to quit or miss work to care for you)
- Loss of career or earning capacity
- Cost of learning a new career
- Property damage
- Other recovery costs (special equipment, like hospital beds or wheelchair ramps; cost of hiring in-home care; cost of an assisted living facility)
Calculating Noneconomic Losses
Non-economic losses, also called general damages, are more abstract and less material in nature, but they can have just as devastating an impact on their victim as economic damages. Non-economic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional trauma
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of a limb
- Loss of reputation, consortium or companionship
Non-economic damages have the potential to be much more lucrative than economic damages; however, they are much harder to prove. If a trial becomes necessary, testimony and legal arguments may help, but it is generally up to the discretion of the jury to determine the amount that is rewarded in non-economic damages.
When calculating the compensation for your claim, it is important to always be aware of what is admissible in your case. All personal injury claims break down to three simple elements:
- An injury was sustained.
- It was caused by a negligent party.
- The negligent party was liable for the injury.
Insurance companies will not provide compensation for your damages unless your legal team can prove that your injuries are directly linked to the at-fault party’s actions. When preparing your case, the expert attorneys at Pendergast Law will consider all evidence to support your claim, including police reports, witness statements, photos and videos, and medical reports. Each case and scenario may be different – car accidents will involve accident reports while premise liability cases may require subpoenas for any surveillance footage – but our attorneys will pursue all avenues when building out your claim.
Sending A Settlement Package
Once you have determined the value of your claim and collected the relevant evidence, your attorney will submit a settlement package to the insurance company. This package will include a demand for damages due as well as copies of medical bills, old pay stubs to determine lost wages, receipts, police reports, witness statements, and any other information that supports your claim.
One package will remain with you and your attorney, while the second will be reviewed by the insurance company to verify the value of your claim. They will attempt to diminish the value of your injuries or property damage with their own investigation, but your settlement package will act as a clear argument for your claim and reference when reviewing the settlement offer.
Separately from the package, you and your attorney should determine a drop-dead figure, which is the lowest amount you will allow your compensation to go. This figure should cover all medical bills, lost wages, and property damage, but it will not be the goal behind your claim. Instead, it will act as the cut-off point for negotiations; if the insurance company refuses to agree to the drop-dead figure, then you and your attorney can move forward with a trial.
Negotiations With Insurance Companies
Insurance adjustors are only interested in decreasing the value of your claim and minimizing their losses, so the initial settlement will often be lower than what you are owed. This is where having an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney on your side comes in handy. Your attorney will handle all communications with the insurance adjuster and act as an advocate on your behalf. Counteroffers will be submitted in response to the initial settlement amount and negotiation will take place with the adjuster. You only need to provide confirmation of the facts and details of your case during negotiations, while the bulk of the argument will be made by your attorney.
Reviewing/Accepting A Settlement
Throughout the negotiation process, the insurance adjuster will provide a variety of different settlement amounts for you and your attorney to review. At this point, you and your attorney will hold fast to your drop-dead figure when reviewing settlements. With patience and perseverance, your attorney can press the insurance adjuster to reach a fair settlement that is well above your drop-dead figure. All records of the agreement will be collected, and you will be asked to sign a settlement agreement and release. This is a legal contract that prevents you from filing further claims against the insurance company for the accident, meaning you cannot take them to trial for additional damages.
Rejecting A Settlement And Moving Forward With A Lawsuit
There will be scenarios where negotiations break down. Insurance adjusters are not required to offer a fair settlement and they may outright refuse to meet your drop-dead figure. At this point, as long as your claim is within the statute of limitations – three years in Washington state – then your Seattle attorney will move forward with a personal injury lawsuit.
Contact An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
For over 20 years, the esteemed legal team at Pendergast Law has been honored to get Washington injury victims the compensation they so desperately needed and deserved. Let our compassionate, skilled, and experienced lawyers do the same for you by calling 888-539-9211 for a free consultation.